The island of Penang in Malaysia has the reputation of having some of the best restaurants in Southeast Asia. In fact “dining” is one of the primary reasons why tourists go there. As a vegan, I cannot really vouch for the reputed excellence of Penang’s restaurants but during my limited time there (4 days/3nights), I had the opportunity to sample three very proper vegetarian restaurants. Admittedly the title of this post “A Vegetarian’s Dining Guide to Penang” is somewhat of a misnomer because of my limited dining experience.
Night One - Woodlands
Upon recommendation of the concierge at Traders Hotel, I went to Woodlands, a vegetarian Indian Restaurant located in nearby Little India. He reassured me that Woodlands was a very proper restaurant, popular with the upper class ethnic Indians who lived in Penang as well as tourists from Kuala Lumpur.
Well, needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. The décor was understated but very pleasant and looking around, most of the clientele were very well dressed locals. I ordered two dishes– Aloo Gobi , Garam Masala in addition to some Garlic rice and Garlic Naan(my favorite). While the service was very good, the food was outstanding, better than 95% of the Indian restaurants that I have been to in my life. The bill came to all of 14.30RM including a 5% service charge. Converting to USD that is $4.00USD - now that is cheap! Keep in mind, if you go to a local cafeteria style Indian restaurant, a whole dinner can be had for as little as $1.25USD!
Night Two - Sri Anana Bahwan
I returned to Little India about 9:00PM. Since Woodlands was closed, I went across the street to Sri Anana Bahwan, another Vegetarian Indian restaurant that I spotted the night before(and they were open till 10:00PM). The ambiance wasn’t quite as nice as Woodlands – a little bit too art deco for my tastes with black ‘n’ white tiled floor and huge whirring ceiling fans going full blast. Overall the food was good (better than average) and the service while friendly was at best mediocre. The bill came out to 17.50RM (approximately 5.00USD), still very affordable for a western tourist.
Night Three - Luk Yea Yan
On my third and final night, I consulted with my taxi driver, a Chinese fellow in his early 70’s, and I asked him to take me to the best Vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the area. He told me he knew of several places. We ended up at Luk Yea Yan, only a 7-minute drive from Traders Hotel. Not a very flashy or gaudy place, Luk Yea Yan was a very proper restaurant with a rather simple decor. Looking around the restaurant, there was a smattering of tourists but most of the clientele were natives of Penang.
After viewing their rather extensive menu, I ordered three dishes – a lotus flower rice dish, stir fried spicy greens and a vegetable satay plus some green tea.
The verdict – the food was very good (not quite as good as Su Hean in Taiping) but the service was just average. Total bill came to 23.60RM (6.60USD)
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This Vegan’s overall verdict for PENANG, thumbs up!